In one of his finest days as a coach, North Carolina wrestling coach C.D. Mock didn’t do any coaching at all.
Due to a technicality at Sunday’s Wolfpack Open in Raleigh, Mock and the rest of the 23 head coaches at the tournament were reduced to mere spectators.
All 21 Tar Heel wrestlers competed unattached, meaning they were not officially representing UNC. Despite being on their own, officially, the Tar Heel wrestling team delivered a dominant performance.
“We had a phenomenal day,” Mock said. “Probably one of the best days we’ve had in my coaching career.”
The 10th-year head coach had little control over what was happening on the mats as he observed from the stands.
“We could just watch,” Mock said. “We really couldn’t coach when they are out there wrestling, we can’t yell anything, we couldn’t be in the corner, they were on their own.”
While Mock and rest of the Tar Heel staff looked on, Nathan Kraisser and his teammates took matters into their own hands.
Kraisser, an unranked freshman from Baltimore, Md., won the 125-pound weight class. He defeated the nation’s eighth-ranked 125 pounder, Nick Soto of Chattanooga, in the championship match.
“The kid never stops,” Mock said of Kraisser. “He just has one speed, and that speed is full throttle.”
Kraisser sensed something special brewing as the wrestlers did their best to coach themselves.
“The wrestlers coached each other, so that really helped bring us together as a team,” he said. “I think it really brought us together as a unit, almost like a family.”
The rest of the wrestling family placed a dozen athletes in the tournament — 12 Tar Heels finished sixth place or better in their respective weight classes, compared to only seven in their first match of the season.
Sophomore Evan Henderson turned in a dominating performance at the 141-pound weight class to claim top honors, while fellow sophomore Alex Utley claimed the top prize at 184 pounds.
The young nucleus of the Tar Heel wrestling program promises great things as this season progresses. Redshirt freshman Christian Barber, who finished second overall in the 149-pound division, believes the best is yet to come.
“I think we performed pretty well, but not where we’d like to be,” Barber said. “I think this momentum will carry on, and I’m looking forward to that”
Mock, tongue-in-cheek, wondered aloud if his services were still necessary, but said he enjoyed his day off.
“Hopefully, the moral of the story isn’t that us coaches need to keep quiet,” he said. “But it was certainly fun to watch.”
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